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AWS skills, certifications pay dividends for IT pros

AWS offers a range of certifications for its public cloud. And while valuable, these certifications shouldn't be the only ones on an IT pro's resume.

AWS is the hottest public cloud around, and both employers and IT pros place a premium on AWS certifications.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) put together a roadmap that defines specific training recommendations based on the role within IT. However, the number of options can be confusing, leaving professionals wondering what is the best path for their AWS certs.

For most IT pros who want to work with AWS, the minimum level of certification would be "AWS Certified Solutions Architect," which starts at the Associate level and moves to Professional. IT pros already skilled in AWS technologies should find it easy to jump right to the Professional level. Cloud developers should look for "AWS Certified Developer" as a basic skill set, but the "AWS Certified DevOps Engineer" level provides the knowledge and AWS skills needed to build true DevOps processes and automation around the cloud environment.

What value do all these AWS certifications have? Employers look favorably at certifications because they provide quantifiable levels of knowledge in a technology the enterprise uses or plans to adopt. They may not be able to vet your AWS skills, so certifications may be the only way to determine if you have the skill set they need. By looking for AWS certs, employers who want to hire AWS-savvy IT staff can easily screen for talent.

Don't put all your eggs in the AWS basket

The larger question is: What do certifications mean in terms of real AWS skills? AWS certifications only mean that the individual has passed a certification exam, and the exam specifically covers AWS technologies.

Developers and architects who build cloud environments understand that the skills needed to succeed go beyond AWS -- and beyond the cloud in general. A cloud architect needs to understand enterprise systems holistically, and that should include all public cloud options.

But relying too much on AWS certifications is dangerous. A company could end up with an IT staff heavily skilled in AWS -- but few others who understand the bigger picture. Before cloud migration projects begin, there needs to be an understanding of source platforms as well as networking, middleware and databases.

Balance is key with AWS certifications. They will only get you so far; round out AWS skills with additional IT and cloud skills, including an understanding of other cloud providers such as Google, IBM and Microsoft. While there will be a huge demand for IT pros who carry AWS certs, the value of those certifications will change over the next few years.

Next Steps

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This was last published in October 2015

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Which AWS certifications will be most valuable to your career?
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For a newbie like me in networking, which AWS certification would be the best? I know a good amount of programming, but don't really have great interests in it. Would the AWS DevOps be a good option for me?
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